Lockdown, learning and peeking into people’s homes

As I write this, we are still in lockdown but I love the idea that at some point, in the not too distant future, I will be able to look back at this blog with a sigh of relief that it is over and that a new normal has been established.

For this ‘new normal’, my current self has been, well, reimagined: I am now an absolute pro at Instagram Live, proficiently creating Oscar worthy videos on social media in ten minutes flat. I saunter down the street with a newfound appreciation for freedom, feeling nothing but love towards my fellow citizens. I meet up with new industry friends introduced to me via the medium of YouTube and InstaLives. My hair is stunning, my nails perfectly manicured, and my abs… well, let’s just say, all those workouts with Joe Wicks have had the desired effect.

The Real World

Of course, that is a complete fantasy, we have a long way to go before we can safely say that this is over – if indeed we ever can. And whilst we are still in lockdown, it is, of course, the scientists, doctors, health professionals, policy makers, food suppliers and civil servants (to name but a few) who are out there working; undoubtedly feeling the pressure to both do their job and keep themselves and their nearest and dearest safe.

As florists, it won’t surprise you to learn that we aren’t considered in any way to be “key workers”, but still, like many others, we are trying to ‘do the right thing’. We have battened down the hatches and are keeping indoors. We are also feeling a bit guilty that we cannot be more useful.

Lockdown and Learning

When we were required to close the Hybrid studio in March, we needed to do something with the flowers we had left in stock and so we brought them home with no real plan for their future other than to give them away to people who we felt most deserved them. I consider myself a bit of a ‘creative introvert’ and struggle at the best of times to put myself centre stage, however after a chat with a marketing friend, Keren Lerner at Top Left Design on a Zoom call, she convinced me to bite the bullet and make a video of what we did with the flowers. So, I did (it can be found here…) and, actually, it was fun! Since then, I have encouraged others to do similar and have participated in InstaLive interviews and ‘how to’ videos.

We have seen lots of amazing initiatives within the creative industry where people have used their talent and skills to keep others entertained and enthralled; dance classes, art demos, book readings, the fabulous “One World: Together at Home” virtual concert, organised by Global Citizen. And for those of us whose creative yearning is greater than their desire to keep out of the limelight, there is unique potential here to be creative on your own terms.

I am willing to bet that those creative people who have stayed home have tried at least one new thing to keep themselves inspired and entertained and have probably shared it by the medium of the internet. We have given it a good ‘go’ and this, we think, is good for the soul. In our house we have become great fans of Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club with artist Grayson Perry encouraging viewers to paint whilst challenging them to do something out of their comfort zone.  Perry believes that ‘art can help us get through this crisis’ and that ‘creativity is a way of dealing with what’s going on in your life’ and we wholeheartedly agree.

During lockdown many of us have gone back to activities we used to love as kids. We have got creative with the items we have had to hand and completely embraced the idea that nothing needs to be polished and infinitely orchestrated so long as you have made a bit of an effort! But I have to admit that one of the best things about the programme is that we get a glimpse inside Grayson’s art studio…

Having a Peek!

Come to think of it we would never have had this candid peek in to these homes of people on TV before lockdown?! I’m pretty sure we are all fascinated by the live interviews on our screens that give us an insight into people’s real-life homes!

Sometimes I have to ask myself: am I watching this for what the person has to say, or because I can have a nose at what’s on the person’s bookshelf? A layer of mystery has been removed and we can see people in a new way. And for that matter we are even seeing our friends, clients and work colleagues in a new way whenever we have a Skype or Zoom call with them.

When the country first went into lockdown, Hybrid set up a WhatsApp group for our team and other floral friends and called it “Let Hope Bloom” (which has been the #slogan for the flower industry throughout the pandemic). Every day since we have shared creative ideas and images of our surroundings with each other, sending photos of nature waking up across London and the Home Counties. We have documented the rise and fall of daffodils and tulips, witnessed the stunning varieties of blousy blossom on London streets (the best place to see blossom is on a suburban street!), bluebells, lilac and clematis. We are now onto poppies, peonies and roses and each day, we admire these and share them with each other. I don’t think that we appreciated British flowers in quite the same way as we do now.

And yes in ‘old normal’ times we would spend every day with each other, completely accepting of each other’s skills and talents as florists but somehow through or our WhatsApp group we have become even more creative and got to know each other even better. We have been making things to please ourselves and sharing these (and our other talents and skills) with pictures from our own homes. And we have become so much closer as a result.

Working from home, with my children off school isn’t always easy! But immersing myself in my children’s world has provided much needed escapism! We have painted images of flowers, made floral headdresses, decorated hula hoops, filled jam jars with wildflowers, painted Easter eggs and made paper flowers (not that you require children to do any of these things!) We have rediscovered hobbies from yester-year and taught ourselves new things too.

It’s all about connecting

So, whilst we may be feeling guilty and sad that we are not in our studio right now we know we are doing the right thing. We are staying home and finding new and exciting ways to communicate with the outside world. We are sharing what we are good at whilst learning new tricks too. We are thankful that our minds are being kept occupied and we can share our creative take on floristry from the comfort of our own home.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask about arranging flowers, floristry in general or the industry, we would love to hear from you. Please also share any pictures you may have of flowers you have grown or arrangements you have created.

Our top 3 images from our floral portfolio (and why they probably won’t be the ones you think!)

If someone were to tell you about an amazing company they had just discovered, where would you turn to first to find out more about them? We would hazard a guess that your first port of call would be their website or Instagram feed. In this image led, digital age both social media and websites are vital for getting a company’s message out there, and both require a fair amount of maintenance to ensure they accurately reflect the brand.

Relating this to our own, much nurtured website, we wondered which really is the most effective medium, our socials or our website, for generating the most enquiries. We asked the wonderful Abigail, from You and Me Collective, who said:

… We are hearing more and more that are clients are getting enquiries directly through their social channels, almost entirely missing the step between social and website….Websites and social channels are open 24/7 so how they look and feel is essential. I would never say you don’t need a website because this is the treasure trove of information where you sell yourself to a customer, a high quality engaging social channel is key alongside it.

You see, not so long ago we finished updating the Hybrid website with images of our most recent work. We must come clean and say that this process was possibly the most arduous task ever! We found it so hard to see the ‘flowers for the trees’ (so to speak) as we have thousands of gorgeous pictures of our work, and with the exception of a few of our absolute favourites it was nigh on impossible to whittle this vast number down. This resulted in hours spent scratching our heads over which images to choose.

We turned to our friends at Christchurch Creative for their advice. Sarah Worswick, Director said:

When choosing images for your website, quality is key. Make sure every image is sharp and reflects your brand identity. Use strong visuals to hook-in your site visitor, choose images which feature ‘real’ people too. Don’t forget to name every image you use. This way, you can optimise each shot you upload, as search engines can easily index them. Add in the alt text to describe what the image is showing, which will aid search engines, too.

After we had finally chosen the lucky few pictures and uploaded them and the whole process got us thinking: Can you really convey a message and the passion you have for your work in just one image? Are you able to look at a photograph of your own work objectively and if you are, should you only post pictures that will receive the most ‘likes’?

Abigail told us:

I get asked this all the time! Instagram and Facebook especially are to be seen as a portfolio… if you look at photographers, they’ll often post a detail shot (ring, flowers, table setting), then a couple shot, then a full party shot showing a 360 reveal of the party. Carousel posts and stories are always a fabulous way to show off – carousels allow you to post up to 10 pictures so you can really showcase the full gallery. Stories are a great ‘look’ into behind the scenes, what you’re doing as a team, the creative process and the event.

What we took from this is that you should only show images that represent you, your values and, most important of all, showcase your work. If you really want your audience to get more of a feel of that image and why it is so important to you then by all means elaborate on it in the comments part of your Instagram feed. And if you really want to give that image further meaning and authenticity then of course you must write a blog on it!

So, without further ado, here they are: our 3 most favourite images and beneath each is our reason why they just had to be featured on our website.

No 1:

This is the entrance to the Grand Hall at The Grand Connaught Rooms in central London, who knows how many times we have walked up and down this staircase in the last 16 years.

In fact, this is where it all started for Hybrid. We’ve done Christmases, weddings ceremonies, award evenings and installed flowers in this building, every week, since 2004. The event shown in this image, the launch party for DeVere, was our most favourite ever. The theme was the great British outdoors, so we covered this stunning marble stair-case with beautiful lush British grown greenery and flowers. We were so lucky to work alongside the supremely talented Chelsea Flower Show sculptor, Emma Stothard who included her amazing woven animal sculptures throughout the party.

No 2:

We adore this perfectly candid shot of Sophie’s wedding at the Landmark Hotel. For us it conveys a true ‘behind the scenes at London hotel wedding’ feel with our beautiful couple nervously preparing their speeches with the Master of Ceremony, surrounded by bridal party flowers, candlelight and waiting staff. The romantic early spring flowers were divine and the burgundy ranunculus were just perfect.

This image shows not just our clients, but also the staff of the hotel. For a wedding florist it is impossible to look back on an event and not remember the huge effort everyone who works at the venue puts in before the guests arrive. The professionalism and five-star service shown by all staff, and the wonderful excitement and anticipation that you can’t help but feel.

Ps. Here’s a little peak at Sophie’s beautiful bouquet and stunning dress detail too!

No 3:

We have such fond memories of this tablescape: it is such a simple design and this is precisely why we love it so much. It shows that less can be more, and a beautiful selection of elegant flowers in just the right colour theme can create a huge impression. We wanted to use flowers which would glow in a modern, clean way, flattering the stunning concrete surrounds of the ‘structural expressionist’ building that is the Lloyd’s Building in the City of London.

We loved working with the acid yellow of these callas which we set against the pale orange bell-like blooms of a very special flower called Sandersonia and combined both with deepest pink Gloriosa lilies. This is one of our most favourite combinations of fresh flowers and to top it off we were able to use our treasured classic brushed steel Conran candlesticks to complete the contemporary look. For us, this image serves as a reminder to create floral designs that in harmony with the venue and appeal to the type of guest sitting at the table (in this instance, one the guests was City of London legend, Mark Carney! We LOVE him!).

And so now we would love to know, does knowing more about the stories behind our top three images change your perception of us?

15 Years into 15 Minutes: The Christchurch Creative Interview

This month we celebrate our fifteenth birthday. In fact, we can’t quite believe that we have been creating Hybrid floral designs in this amazing city of ours for fifteen whole years! We couldn’t think of a better way to honour the occasion than to re-post an interview our Caroline gave to Christchurch Creative earlier this year.

When the lifestyle and interiors journalists asked us to take part in their famous ‘15 minutes with…’ piece we were overwhelmed.  Not only does their Style & Decor blog celebrate floral design, they also cover the creative industry as a whole, featuring some of the UK’s most successful independent furniture, interior and fashion designers, photographers, bloggers, stylists and retailers.  To be one of their chosen few has certainly been one of our highlights! 

So here it is, the past 15 years in the UK’s creative world, condensed into 15 minutes….

15 mins with…Caroline Ball of Hybrid florists

We catch up with Caroline Ball, co-founder of one of London’s leading florists, Hybrid Flowers, who created the florals for the St Paul’s Cathedral wedding of TV presenter Ade Adepitan and singer-songwriter ‘Elle Exxe’ last year. In this exclusive interview, Caroline reveals her favourite seasons for flowers, the latest floral trends and more here:

Tell us a bit about yourself and the team?

After studying Communication and Animation at Goldsmiths College, I was unsure of my next step. I thought it very unlikely that I would be paid to stand in gardens all day painting flowers. So I took a job working for a florist on Fulham Road. It didn’t take me long to realise that this was true happiness.

I could never wait to see the results of my work. However, in floristry, impatience is a perfect attribute as the flowers will not wait for you! You must make something beautiful quickly, before they die.

Whilst working in London, I kept bumping into this extravagant mad (and highly talented!) guy, Alan Simpson. He then become my best friend and business partner. Together, we started Hybrid and now employ 14 people from around the globe.

How and when did you set up Hybrid?

Call it “youthful optimism” but in my 20’s I decided I only needed few pounds a week to live on. So, with little to lose, I began my own corporate contracts for offices. Back then, I didn’t even have a driving license!

At the same time, Alan was asked by a gorgeous Anglo-Italian couple if he could create their wedding flowers. In fact, they were struggling to find someone who would work between Christmas and New Year. He conscripted me and together we worked non-stop over Christmas. So we created the most amazing Art Deco-inspired glamorous ‘Italian meets East End’ wedding in the Park Lane Hotel.

Following on from this success, I somehow convinced Alan that he didn’t need much money to live on either and he should come and work with me! He agreed (phew!) and, in 2004, Hybrid was launched. We have never looked back.

How would you summarise the work you do?

Alan and I are proud to be one of London’s top flower companies. In addition, it’s a great privilege to create beautiful arrangements for an astounding array of events, parties, weddings, hotels and offices.

Our team is magnificent; their knowledge, training and unique perspectives challenge and inspire us every day. Our work is custom-designed to the client; one day, we may create wedding flowers in Holland Park. Then the next day, a huge reception piece for a large bank in Canary Wharf.

Where are you based?

Nestled in the railway arches of London’s Vauxhall, our flower studio is the florist’s nirvana: space for props, vases and work benches; a cool temperature that flowers love and a creative office space for client meetings and team brainstorming. What’s more, it’s just a stone’s throw from our favourite suppliers at the Flower Market.

What types of floral arrangements do you make?

We turn our hands to making anything. Once, a client called to ask if we could create a laurel chaplet (like Olympians are given on the podium). They had been calling florists all over, but none knew how to make one. However, we knew exactly what to do owing to our training in traditional floristry techniques.

Can you tell us about some of your recent commissions?

A few months ago we created the florals for Ade Adepitan and Elle Exxe’s wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral and Queens House, Greenwich which was covered in Hello! Magazine. It was a wonderful brief covering Ade’s background from Nigeria and Elle’s Scottish roots. We could use any flowers as long as they clashed!

Recently, we created the table centres for Brockman’s Gin. These featured beautiful deep coloured black branches strung with candlelight, decorated with rich red foliages and our current favourite: beautifully patterned begonia leaves.

We also design and install Christmas décor for hotels and work with the most amazing festive colour schemes. Last year’s favourites were nude colours with caramel, apricot and silver.

How does a commission for a wedding or event vary from a corporate commission?

For weddings, most people have poured a lot of time and thought into planning this once in a lifetime event. We keep this understanding at the forefront of our minds and help our clients find the best way to achieve their dreams whilst keeping within their budget. Our aim is to be realistic and creative in equal measures.

For a corporate commission, the idea is for florists to use flowers to represent a brand or identity. But, more and more, an amazing corporate event is all about creating truly memorable experiences for the guest in which they may be transported to another world.

Do you have a favourite type of project to work on?

We love working on events which have a quirky element. Often our clients spend hours planning a major annual event and conjure up the most amazing brief. We love discussing their and our ideas and creating sample designs for them to view. It helps when the event is held at a amazing venue as we are then given access to view the most amazing spaces from behind the scenes.

Tell us about some of the buildings you have dressed?

As London florists, we have dressed many iconic buildings: from Parliament, The London Eye, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Shakespeare’s’ Globe, Canary Wharf and anywhere in between. Our work has included dressing strip clubs in Soho, hotels on Park Lane, Castles in the country side and boats on the Thames. We are also on the suppliers list for The British Museum, the Museum of London, Queen’s House, Cutty Sark, Merchant Taylor’s Hall, The Royal Observatory. We will always be proud to be a floral supplier to St Paul’s Cathedral which, for us, is the most iconic building in London.

What are your favourite flowers to work with?

Honestly, we do not have favourites. Each flower has natural qualities that can be used to create something amazing. Some flowers are easier to work with than others. Some are perfect for long lasting installations whilst others are wonderful for an instant ‘wow’ factor.

Roses, if opened to perfection, will always look stunning. However, our studio will particularly appreciate any flower which appears delicate whilst having longevity!

How many different types of flowers do you work with?

On any given day, our suppliers have access to thousands of varieties of flowers from all over the world. Ecuadorian roses are stunning, Italian agapanthus are massive and British sweet peas are divine. As leading florists, we are constantly on the lookout for new varieties in unique colour combinations or shapes. Last year, we worked with the cymbidium growers Cy More Flavour and Marrewijk Amaryllis growers in Holland. It was so fascinating to hear all about the passion these family businesses put into creating new breeds of flowers.

What is your favourite season for flowers?

We love either early or late summer. Early summer brings the most beautiful fresh foliage and seeing fresh buds gives us the feeling of anticipation and joy – there is a reason that Chelsea Flower Show is in May. The colour of flowers becomes more intense in late summer: dahlias and chrysanthemums look like they’ve stored up the warmth of the summer sun in their petals, which are deep and rich. It is possible to source most flowers all year round. But, if they’re out of season, they can be expensive and never seem as vibrant and flavoursome (strawberries in February anyone?).

What is your preferred colour combination?

Some flowers look great on their own in a vase. For example, a big bundle of blue iris in bright, daylight-filled room can look stunning. However, sometimes you can create the most amazing combinations of colours by spotting a tiny fleck of colour in the throat of, say, an orchid, and placing a colour matched flower or leaf next to it that will really bring that out.

Which projects do you have in 2019?

We have some really exciting projects on the horizon. One in particular is a ‘Sustainability’ event showcasing planted elements, recycled containers and locally grown flowers combined with a fantastically kitsch leaf motif.

Any floral trends we should look out for this year?

People are becoming more and more aware that flowers, plants and foliages can be used to create a vibe, feeling or atmosphere – think more ‘installation’ than flowers in a vase.
Be on the lookout for dried flowers, quirky grasses, funky plants; there is nothing off limits and there never will be!

Where do you get your inspiration?

Often our aim is to recreate the great outdoors, inside. Perhaps a client’s childhood memory of a calm woodland filled with bluebells. It is so often about nostalgia. We also get our inspiration from other creative industries such as architecture, interior and graphic design and other iconic eras from history.

Do you have any top tips for wannabe florists?

We recommend finding out what being a florist is really like and being open to hearing the bad stuff. Floristry College is one option as is work experience: both training and experience are essential to getting a foot in the door. Many people only want to be events florists but you can’t only be a party florist without knowing how to do the less glamorous things.

Search the internet for blogs and articles on floristry or speak to local florists. When people say it is hard work, it is really, really hard work. Back-breaking, hand-ruining sleep-depriving and stress-inducing. There are no short-cuts, but if you’ve still not been put off, enroll in a floristry course that will give you work experience too. Choose a good course that will teach you the boring bits too. You need to know it. 

….Spring 2019 

So that’s it.  Fifteen years in 15 minutes from the perspective of our Caroline.  We cannot quite work out the precise date of our 15th Birthday (as how do you mark the very beginning of something any way?) but all we can say is that sometime in March 2004, all those years ago we started on our journey.  We met some amazing people in that time and built the best network of wonderfully talented and dedicated people from suppliers, clients and florists who have come together over the years to make our little world go round…. here’s to the next 15! 

16 slightly random questions to ask a florist

When a friend of mine asked me if I would answer some questions about myself for an article she was writing I thought “erm… might I introduce you to my business partner, Alan…?!” for you see I am not terribly keen on talking about myself.
However, she persevered and threatened to infect my precious garden roses with aphids if I didn’t comply, so under duress, I agreed.

And I have to say I got a lot out of answering the questions! In fact, they gave me space to think about some really big questions, like: “How did I end up as a florist?” and “What is it all about anyway?” I also couldn’t help but wonder: “Would she really be so mean as to ruin my beautiful roses?”

You see, even when you love your job like I do, and have worked hard to ensure the team you work with are happy and engaged, and even when you are surrounded by beautiful flowers in sumptuous settings, you can still feel, sometimes, that things are passing by too quickly and you may want to stop and take stock. I can think of two significant occasions when I’ve really needed to do this: once when I realised that I’d been a florist for over half of my life, and the second when I turned 40 earlier this year.

The “interview” is below, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed taking part!

1. Where did you grow up?

Surrey, but I guess I really grew up when I went to live in South East London at age 19.

2. What’s the earliest thing you can remember?

As all good mums did with their babies in the 1970’s, my mum would often plonk me in my pram and leave me in the garden whilst she got on with yoga, or making a pineapple upside down cake… okay, I can’t really remember that bit but I can vividly remember looking up at cherry blossom. Our road in Ewell was lined with the most glorious cherry trees which were full of stunning puffy, pink petals that, a few weeks later would cover the street in beautiful pink snow-like confetti.
I have a tendency now to place my children under random cherry blossom trees every April just to ensure they have similar memories!

3. How much do you think your childhood influences your work:

As a child, I would always draw and paint flowers and I look for ways to show the patterns and shapes in flowers and leaves now, as then. I will always have a soft spot for begonia and cyclamen leaves.

My grandmother loved sweet peas and would display her home grown flowers in her house every summer. The organic mix of so many colours and varied heights always fascinated me. This memory has taught me that flowers, like the sea, cannot, and should, not be controlled too much.

4. What’s the weirdest place you’ve sought inspiration from:

Well! I am often travelling on the train and as a result, I been known to find a lot of inspiration from the verges on railway tracks. Also, as a car passenger travelling on the most boring of motorways I can let my mind wonder and come up with quite a few creative ideas.

5. What formal education do you have?

I have a Ist class BA hons in Communications and Animation from Goldsmiths however, the past 20 years working in the industry has been my biggest lesson!

6. What’s the wisest thing anyone has ever told you?

You’ve got to give yourself a chance to get lucky.

7. As they grow older, what do you think your children will ask you to tell stories about?

I think they’ll ask me about the time I arranged flowers for the Queen’s lunch table. It was very long and very grand! And I expect they’ll ask me about all the different weird and wonderful places Hybrid have been to in London.

Even now, I play a game with my daughter where we look at a sketch map of London that hangs on our toilet wall, and she points to a random location and I have to tell her an interesting fact or story to do with that area.

8. When did something start out badly for you but in the end, it was great?

That’s easy, it was for the first ever hand-tied bouquet I ever made for the first florist I worked for. I had only made a few beforehand and as I was making it I thought ‘Oh my this is going horribly wrong they are going to see straight through me and my lack of experience will be uncovered!’. But for some reason I kept going and realised that perseverance can take you quite a long way and actually I was alright at this flowery stuff!…

9. Which flower will always be in fashion, no matter how much time passes?

Roses: the whole world has spent thousands of years growing them. Just don’t let my friend near them.

10. Which is the most unusual brief you’ve ever been asked to fill?

Flowers to be given on stage at The Royal Albert Hall to a whole host of amazing female celebrities who took part in The Vagina Monologues in the early noughties. The flowers had to be very themed, descriptive and very striking! I was wincing when I was making them.

11. What are you interested in that most people aren’t?

Vans and trucks.

12. What’s the most expensive thing you’ve broken?

Our first van.

13. What do you think you are much better at than you actually are?

Axe Throwing (ask the rest of our team, this was the first part of our Christmas party last year and I was THE worst).

14. Do you think that aliens exist?

Not in the slightest.

15. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?

Am afraid it has to be the bar scene from Only Fools and Horses and the sick caterpillar scene in CBeebie’s ‘Hey Duggee’.

16. What’s the funniest joke you know by heart?

What do you get hanging from trees?…

Sore arms.

Christmas styling … why you don’t need to throw loads of flowers at it!

In case you’ve not noticed, soon it will be Christmas; that most wonderful time of the year! A time to relax, be merry, deck the halls! With social media awash with images of the perfect Christmas, from opulent flower walls to entire buildings covered in decoration, you may be forgiven for thinking that to create a Wow, you must GO BIG!

Of course, insta-images of 12 foot high Christmas trees swamped in bows, candles and glitz create a real impact, but, as a rule, at Hybrid we abide by the “less is more” adage; we believe that the essence of Christmas can still be captured using a few, well chosen, beautifully styled flowers rather than a tonne of sparkly birch trees. 

For our designs at this year’s London Christmas Party Show we were asked to create a design within an alcove at the largest Livery Hall in London, Plaisterers’ Hall, which backs on to the remains of the original Roman London Wall. In this unique venue, we wanted to create a lush Christmas atmosphere without going too over the top; we wanted the warmth, the magic and the feel of Christmas but didn’t want to chuck glitter at everything.

The essence of Christmas style:

To achieve this, we decided to go back to basics and asked ourselves what is the essence of Christmas? What are the most Christmassy colours, scents, textures around, and which little touches can we add to our design to make people feel the magic of Christmas?

We challenged ourselves to create a timeless design that would be in-keeping with a Christmas scene from when the original Plaisterers’ Hall, was built back in 1556, as well as combining the essence and spirit of a contemporary 2018 Christmas. Our solution: a colour scheme of red, amber, gold and emerald green mixed with velvety textures and lots of shiny things.

And so we set about creating a bit of an optical illusion within our curved alcove.  Appearing as if a rounded table was set into the wall (when really it was half a table making the most of the deep curved alcove behind) we filled the space with lots of Christmassy details.  We used two different textured velvet cloths sourced from our friends at Borovick Fabrics in Soho and a beautiful lace edged chargers.  We used brushed gold cutlery, tumblers and goblets and added beautiful, rich, warm coloured fruits like pomegranates, oranges and grapes.

And of course, no Christmas table would be complete without a scattering of cinnamon sticks and candlelight.  Our key flowers were scarlet coloured roses, opened to perfection, combined with traditional poinsettia flowers and glossy green foliages.

Bearing in mind our “less is more” philosophy, the next question we asked ourselves was quantity: we knew these lovely festive details would speak for themselves but what if – What If – we went BIG, just this once? We ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ for all of 5 minutes before deciding that whilst a smattering of Christmas details would hit the festive spot perfectly well, should we not throw caution to the wind and really indulge in the joy of Christmas?

And with that, we were off! We ordered ourselves not one, but two types of velvet red rose, ‘Red Naomi’ and ‘Freedom’ which we set amidst the shiniest, deepest green aralia leaves we could find, contrasted with touches of Cupressus foliage and combined with the most beautiful faux silk poinsettias. There was no holding back as we sprayed pomegranates gold and studded the oranges with different patterns of cloves, finished off with a red ribbon.  And what Christmas table isn’t complete without a full-on floral arch full of red flowers and winter foliage completely surrounding the festive setting?!

Looking back, we feel a little giddy! Those glass-urns, the goblets, That Arch! All adorned, stuffed, embellished with hundreds of breathtakingly beautiful roses. Was our flirtation with opulence worth it? Well! We think it might have been, especially as we won the award for Best Stand was as voted by the visitors (a delightful surprise).

Our top tips for creating the look:

But truly and honestly, we feel that the same effect can been created with a lot less, our ideas for decorating your own Christmas party without breaking the bank are below:

  1. Red

Use red, sparingly, in the same way as a movie star may use a dash of scarlet lipstick, to create a hint of glamour and colour without drenching the senses. To do this, you must find the most vivid red flowers you can afford, but here, less is definitely more, don’t get too many: roses or poinsettia plants are perfect (you can cut poinsettia flowers and place in vases of water for a more delicate look).

  1. Green

Combine with green shiny and textured foliage.  Deep green glossy leaves, such as evergreen camellia, laurel or aralia leaves from a garden are perfect, and combine these with common or garden stems of conifer (yes, we said conifer!) or, if you are bit posh, stems of rosemary.

  1. Gold

Add a touch of Gold: buy yourself a can of gold spray paint and spray pots, tumblers, little vases or candleholders deep, rich opulent gold (pears also look gorgeous touched, but not completely covered, with gold).

  1. Orange(s)

And last but never least, our most favourite Christmas decoration of all time will always be clove studded oranges.  They. Are. A. Must. Easy to create and heavenly to smell.

Image courtesy of the great guys at Splento 

Top tips for a floral career from the original Hybrid Heroes

On our Instagram bio we state, proudly: “The most amazing team of event and corporate florists.” This may sound a tad OTT, but we really do mean it! They. Are. Amazing! Not a week goes by when I don’t feel a sense of almost maternal pride whilst listening to the fabulous Hybrid staff chatting about their projects with such great enthusiasm and energy.

In fact, each member of our 14 strong clan contributes something individually wonderful and eclectic which, when combined, forms the very essence of Hybrid. Together, we form the most amazing team which, for me at least, has become even more than that: it’s an extended family, full of people you actually choose to spend time with, each with their own talent and personality.

We caught up with three of our most long-standing Hybrid Heroes whilst installing designs at a recent English Garden summer installation at The Brewery in the City of London. I wanted to ask them what made them become florists in the first place and if they have any words of wisdom for people thinking of a career in floristry.

Fiona has worked at Hybrid for four years, Liliana for nine years and Gabriella for six. This is what they said:

Do you think you were destined to become a florist?

Creating something memorable from flowers has always been in Liliana’s blood, ever since she and her brother would play outside as children in the countryside in Cordoba, Argentina, where they would make little characters from the seed-heads of clematis flowers.

For Fee, it was a childhood spent playing outdoors in Yorkshire where she would pretend to be a presenter on a TV cookery show and use piles of leaves decorated with flowers as food!

From an early age, Gabs, was drawn to the beautiful enticing and fascinating flower shops in her home city of Budapest.

Both Gabs and Fee chose to study Horticulture directly upon leaving school. Fee studied for three years at Leeds City College which for her was a welcome change from the formal dynamic of classroom learning. For Gabs, ‘horticulture’ was the first word that jumped out at her when she opened the book of careers given to all Hungarian 14 year olds at her high school. She went on to study six years of Horticulture at University in Budapest. Coincidently, both loved learning the Latin names for plants and the design aspect of their courses before deciding to specialise in floristry inspired by the flowers they had been taught how to grow.

Liliana travelled all over the world before moving to London in her thirties where she was inspired by her then house-mate to study on a 3 year floristry course at Southwark College.  The alumni from the 2003 graduation year is one to be proud of, including flower experts and florists such as Rona Wheeldon, founder of Flowerona, Rafael Ballesteros, Manager of Galton Flowers and Mary Woolcot the owner of Windmill Flowers. Liliana’s tutor proudly stated that it was a very competitive year!

The first question we are always asked by people thinking of moving into floristry is, is it worth going to college?

All three whole heartedly agree that yes, you need to have a sound knowledge of the basics.

For Liliana, going to college gave her the confidence to be a professional:

For me, it was the most amazing thing I could have done as it opened my eyes to different forms of floristry and you need to have that knowledge to be professional.

Gabs agrees:

Studying allows you to be the very best you can be.

Upon leaving college, Liliana and Fee, were given lucky breaks by wonderful flower shop managers in London who believed in giving good college graduates a chance; they never looked back!

Do you still love flowers after all these years?

Liliana jokes that her hands certainly don’t! But all three agreed that they still love flowers. Liliana loves growing her own and using them in her house.

Fee explained that there are always new flowers emerging in the industry which make you fall back in love with the simplest flowers that you have used for years.  Her passion is always sparked by new varieties of old style flowers such as the quirkiest varieties of carnations called ‘Nobbio Violet’ and ‘Peach Extazis’.

We asked what each would be doing if they weren’t working in this mad floral world?

For Liliana, it would be something crafty or artistic, perhaps fine art whereas for Fee, as well as creative writing, she would be immersed in history, delving into myths and legends and the history of ancient buildings.  Which is why she always volunteers to install event flowers at some of our most historical London venues such as Merchant Taylors’ Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral and The Queen’s House, Greenwich!

Gabs however, would have liked to study Microbiology, especially creating new flowers, or an architect!

Do Gabs, Liliana and Fee have any tips for people considering a career in floristry?

Gabs advises to never stop learning, make everything as if you were making it for yourself and keep the passion.  The industry is so intense that once you stop loving the industry, you will leave, so keep the passion alive!

Fee recommends keeping perspective and not sweating the small stuff. She said:

Listen and learn from the experienced florists, they will teach you new tips and tricks.  Each florist, each shop and company does things differently absorb it all and you’ll find what works for you.

Liliana is more pragmatic, advising to be prepared for cold days, early hours and lots of psychical work:

It is very creative but you can never rest on your laurels.  If you work in the flower industry, keep in mind that it is one of the hardest environments to work in as your product is perishable so you must always be thinking of ways to sell your creations.

Gabs added:

It is never boring! It is one of the only professions where you will be continually thinking, prioritising, calculating, selling, creating, physically lifting and moving, driving, liaising, marketing, planning, drawing, presenting and writing and that’s before touching any flowers!

Made up of individuals, Hybrid, is more than the sum of its parts: our combined experience means that we can always ask each other for advice or run new ideas past one another and there are moments of sheer joy when we sit down and simply chat, talk about the old times, discuss philosophies of life and learn something new about each other.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about the Hybrid Heroes and we are always happy to answer any questions you may have about a career in floristry.

The people behind British Flowers Week

It seems like only yesterday that the wonderful people behind British Flowers Week, New Covent Garden Flower Market (known simply as ‘The Market’ to those of us in the biz), asked a select few of their top florist clients to choose a key British flower and create 3 distinct designs around it.

It was a genuine honour and privilege to be one of the chosen florists of 2014, and we haven’t stopped harping on about it since! You see, The Market asked just five of their finest and gave us a whole host of amazing British flowers to choose from.

Their aim?

To showcase great British flowers through great British floristry.

Our choice of British flower came easily: the Sweet William. I agree it’s not the most obvious choice, but we like to be a little different at Hybrid, and the Sweet William is a flower for which our Alan has real soft spot. In fact, the amazing Sweet William is used regularly by Hybrid in all three areas of our work: events, weekly corporate designs and weddings.  Click here to see what we did with the designs.

Now in its sixth year, for floral designers, growers, florists, flower arrangers and customers alike, British Flowers Week is becoming the highlight of the floral year (yes indeed… move over Chelsea….).

So we decided to take a look at how much this amazing floral calendar event has developed over the last few years and asked the brilliant Claire Levi, Communications Executive for New Covent Garden Market Authority to tell us how it all came about.

How was British Flowers Week born?

Here at the Flower Market at New Covent Garden Market, we’ve traded in British grown flowers and foliage for centuries. Up until the 1970s, the only flowers you saw came from flower farmers in Britain. Today, most of the flowers we see used in the floristry industry or for sale in your high street flower shop will have been grown by large scale commercial growers and routed through the Dutch auctions.

We wanted to promote and give visibility to these British flowers, their sellers, growers, and the independent florists championing locally-grown. Although beautiful British flowers are available all year round, we wanted to take one week to focus all our attentions on promoting them, generating interest and press coverage to boost the British flower industry.

Was it solely a Flower Market idea?

The initial idea was solely a Flower Market idea, but the campaign would never have been possible without the support of the entire floral industry.

How has it changed over the last 5 years?

What started as a relatively small project has grown from strength to strength – I think we never really expected how big the campaign would become! – Although our aims have stayed the same.

Over the year’s 25 florists (including yourselves) have created stunning designs using British flowers and foliage that we shared with the press, on our website and across social media as the cornerstone of the campaign. This year, we’ve changed things up a bit, with six florists creating all British floral installations that will be on display at the Garden Museum throughout the week for people to visit.

Social media use has increased so much over the last five years too, that the hashtag #BritishFlowersWeek has grown and grown, with more people getting behind the campaign online. In 2015, I created the website www.britishflowersweek.com too, to act as an online hub for the week.

More florists and growers are holding events up and down the country to celebrate the week too, particularly members of the Flowers from the Farm network who do amazing work in promoting locally grown flowers.

What is the aim for British Flowers week?

We aim to:

  • Showcase great British flowers through great British floristry
  • Raise awareness of which British flowers are in season when
  • Encourage the public to buy more British flowers

Any key people involved in British Flowers week that you couldn’t do without?

There’s so many people who’ve made British Flowers Week what it is today! As I mentioned, Flowers from the Farm are hugely important in promoting British Flowers Week through their network across the UK. The British Florist Association are also great partners in sharing the campaign with their members. They’ve also created some great free posters for florists to use, and the lovely team at The Paper Studio have been providing free posters and gift tags to florists for years.

The whole team at the market, and friends of the market like Rona Wheeldon of Flowerona provide invaluable support too and Liz Anderson was vital in helping with PR in the early years of the campaign.

Ultimately though, British Flowers Week wouldn’t be such a success without florists, like yourselves, who’ve given up their time and effort to support the campaign and continue to advocate for British flowers, wholesalers and growers. We’re hugely grateful to everyone who makes time to support the campaign.

Many thanks to Flowerona, Julian Winslow and New Covent Garden Flower Market for images 

The top 5 Ultra Violet flowers inspired by Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2018

As a florist with a degree in Communications, there is nothing I enjoy more than interpreting a client’s brief using flowers to convey their message, and I believe that the right combination of flowers in a design can send a powerful and long-lasting message to all those who view it. Put another way: flora themed design can be used to strengthen a brand, create an atmosphere, and enhance an identity.

When used in a stunning display, flowers have the power the unleash forgotten memories and create associations and may cause the onlooker to actually feel different. For example, vibrant orange and pink can make you feel a bit wild, happy and adventurous, whilst that same orange with whites and fresh greens will create a more chilled out vibe, reminiscent of summer days.

We often ask clients to give us three key words to describe the ‘message’ they want to convey. We have received all manner of adjectives from ‘sharp’, ‘professional’ and ‘dynamic’ to ‘glamorous’, ‘sexy’ and ‘shocking’. To our design team these three words are the key to unlocking inspiration, permitting us to unleash our creative edge to ensure the flowers we chose are the most effective at conveying this message.

Every year, Pantone, a company based in New Jersey most commonly known for providing a system for matching colours, releases their colour of the year. For 2018, this colour is Ultra Violet. At Hybrid, we eagerly await news of each year’s colour and spend a lot of time discussing which flowers will best match whichever colour it is.

No surprise then that we have always preferred the more florally inspired years:

2014’s Radiant Orchid was blooming ‘with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination’ and gave us scope to develop designs with warm deep pink tones.

2017’s Greenery was a ‘refreshing and revitalising shade… symbolic of new beginnings’ and was perfect for so many foliage inspired designs.

However, this year’s Ultra Violet is without doubt, our all-time favourite!  Violet has the power to anchor and give depth to so many other colours and flower combinations. Whenever a brief dictates ‘vibrant, bold and strong’, we think: violet. Right now, spring and summer give us perfect blooms in ultra violet tones.  Violet is a bold and brazen colour and can be used to create the most amazing statement designs, it can also make colours placed next to it come alive.

Ultra Violet is so important that we feel it warrants further praise and reverence, we asked our friend and colour mentor, Applied Colour Psychology practitioner Karen Haller for her view on this colour:

The ultra-violet ray is the last colour before the invisible and reflects stepping into the unknown. It’s the ideal hue to reflect taking a leap of faith and connecting to our inner self, our intuition and taking our self-awareness beyond our current thinking.

The colour’s vibrant namesake, the violet flower, also brings great joy as it is one of the first flowers to appear each year. This little woodland bloom heralds the start of spring with its deep intense colour, its surely one of the most audacious in the natural world with it’s sensual tone hinting at drama and intrigue.

Aside from the valiant yet petite Violet, here are our top five Ultra Violet flowers:

  1. Anemone

Anemone is a spring bloom of an intense deep purple with a black face.  Although its sold to us as being “blue”, we are buying it for its glorious violet colour.

Tip: their soft, long, delicate stems work beautifully in vases of fresh water on their own or as part of a collection, but don’t try and use them in floral foam if you are making over 15 table designs as your team will never forgive you!

Best mixed with: orange roses and cherry coloured ranunculus.

  1. Flag Iris

These shapely tall flowers stand head and shoulders above their smaller cousin, the ‘common or garden’ Iris.  The violet coloured varieties are particularly dramatic and their striking silhouette is simply stunning.

Tip:  don’t cut these stems too short as they are born to be tall, dramatic and glamorous.  Arrange them simply in a beautiful vase with their spear like leaves as the only foliage.

Best mixed with: nothing! Simply place them in front of a plain backdrop to really promote and show-off their shape.

  1. Hydrangeas

As summer arrives, we seek out the violet version of this amazing bloom, each individual vivid floret creates the most striking domed shape.

Tip: these large rounded domes of violet add weight and depth to most floral designs. Use them as a base shape to enhance other stunning summer flowers.

Best mixed with: a blown open cerise coloured peony, or alternatively use bundles of violet hydrangeas in modern vases set amongst matching vases of bold shapely flowers to create impressive colour blocks of flowers.

  1. Vanda Orchid

The assortment of violet tones available from vanda orchid growers is breathtaking.  These striking blooms look amazing under a spotlight at events and their reliable long lasting vase life means they are perfect for weekly vase designs in both offices, restaurants and hotels.

Tip: stems of Vanda orchids can be arranged beautifully at the mouth of tall vases and their individual heads can be removed from the stems and submerged in water, placed into individual tubes of water and strung into tall branches.

  1. Delphinium

Each floret of the vibrant purple delphinium has the most amazing violet tones. Packed together, their impact can be phenomenal! This delphinium is probably one of the most striking flowers available to florists and is one of the tallest flowers around in British gardens at summer time.

Tip: use these beautiful stems to make massive fan shapes of colour in large containers atop striking plinth pedestals.  They look equally stunning in modern glassware in high end modern architectural spaces as they do in traditional stone urns placed in within landscaped gardens at summer soirees.

We hope that you will be inspired by the flowers we have showcased here and that if you are looking for a display that is eye-catching, sensuous and bold you remember these Ultra-Violet heroes, especially if the message you’re looking to convey is one that is punchy, deep and mesmorising!

BTW the most uninspiring Pantone colours of the year were for us Turquoise, Emerald and Marsala. A turquoise coloured flower? Anyone?

Three things all Zero to Hero events entrepreneurs have in common

When Clare McAndrew, Marketing Director of Story, invited us to speak on an expert panel at the London Summer Event Show, we thought to ourselves:

Well, we always love a chat, especially with other event industry creatives… but are we really that fascinating?…. and would our collective experiences be enough to inspire and advise a new generation of startups?

Clare reassured us:

Our audience would LOVE to hear your stories, especially as all of you brilliant suppliers started from nothing and went on to create something great… ! I guarantee that people would find what you have to say inspiring….. Oh and by the way the seminar is already fully booked!

It turns out, Clare was right!  Alongside our Alan (Simpson Co-Owner of Hybrid) was Peter Gibbons, the dynamic owner of Lux Technical; Susannah Mountfort, the innovative Founder & Director of Gingerline & Flavourology and Taran O’Doherty the super cool Founder & Sales Director of Yahire.  Despite each of these companies contributing to the events industry in very different ways we all had so much to say and all shared remarkably similar backgrounds and experiences.

And here are just three of them:

  1. Having that Eureka moment!

Take Alan. Alan kind of fell into floristry, and I mean that quite literally! As a teenager, rehearsing for the local am-dram production in the Church Hall, he somehow managed to topple over one of two identical floral arrangements put there for a funeral due to take place that afternoon. Embarrassed and shocked, he did his best to reassemble the arrangement and amazingly, and somewhat to his surprise, he succeeded! No one could notice the difference between the original and the one he’d recreated!  That was his calling! He enrolled himself on to a YTS and started his floristry training and the rest as they say, is ‘Zero to Hero’ history.

It would appear that we weren’t alone in local theatre acting as a catalyst for success. Peter Gibbons started his journey as a teenager volunteering for a local theatre where he developed his passion for lighting and sound. This led eventually to him buying the assets of a company whose owner was about to retire and Lux Technical was born. He now employs 10 full time staff and creates events for the most amazing clients including Google and War Child.

Susannah Mountfort’s unique idea was to fuse together art, performance, food, drink and design. On The Gingerline, guests are sent to a secret location for an evening of extraordinary performance, narrative, set design and amazing food. She has since created Flavourology and Chambers of Flavour, both offering multi-dimensional dining experiences. She even wrote her own piece of software which monitors dining guests moving through the interactive events space, this was later adapted for Starbucks.

After working for an event furniture hire company for a bit, Taran O’Doherty decided to set up his own business with his best friend from school. One night they both got drunk, pulled out a notepad did some rubbish drawings (his words not ours) and hey presto! Yahire was born. With no business plan or experience, very little money and no way of knowing how to would gain customers Taran and Ben bought 300 folding chairs and 30 trestle tables which they stored in Ben’s mum’s home. Yahire now employs 80 people and is the stand-out name in the industry.

  1. Not giving a monkey’s

So! Sounds simple? Have an idea and hey presto, you’re an entrepreneur. But stop press… all is not as it seems!   When asked about challenges along the way we all agreed on these:

#1: Getting people to take you seriously

Youth can be on your side, but if you’re starting up your own business, sometimes it can prevent people from believing in you. Peter came to London in his early 20s and agrees that ‘coming to London when not one of us were over the age of 25, was a challenge.  You need people to know that you and your company were utterly capable and able to deliver no matter what.’

Susannah took it as a challenge when working with other non-event industries as some did not take her seriously. She wanted people to recognise an ambitious plan and believe in her idea. Fortunately, ‘the desire to prove anyone who said we couldn’t do it wrong was hugely motivating’.

#2: Being motivated

Having self-control and keeping focussed can be extremely challenging. As Taran explains: ‘As a leader, remembering your goals, and not get distracted is very challenging. After a couple of years, your new company becomes a job, and it can be tough to keep focussed and move in the right direction’.

#3: Loneliness

Setting up your own business can be lonely, even when there are two of you setting out to conquer the world.

Peter advises to ‘Build yourself a support structure: my family, friends and business mentors have been key as it is a very lonely place at the top, and it feels as if you are the only person feeling it’.

At Hybrid we’ve found that as our business has grown, our clients, suppliers and staff all become as precious as our own families, so before you know it you’ve created your clan of like-minded people!

  1. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, Jedi Master

When Clare asked the panel what it is you need to set up your own business within the events industry: for Alan the answer was simple:

‘Passion.  So many people come to us and say:

Oh I would have loved to have done that!

I say either go and do it, or stop talking about it!’

Taran agreed: ‘So many people deliberate or say they are going to do something and find excuses not to, but you have to believe you are capable of doing anything.’

Peter adds ‘Surround yourself with people who challenge you, if you are always hands on, you are never going to be able to scale it up, so bring people in who are better than you. The key to our success has been people, there is no two ways about it.’

So if you have an idea that you think rocks, go for it! What’s the worst that can happen?

With great thanks to Splento for all images

 

The two flowers that make a florist’s life worth living over the winter months: Part Two

As florists buying from London’s biggest flower market, at Hybrid, we know for certain when winter is on its way when we spot the Dutch flower trollies neatly stacked with slim, yet surprisingly heavy, rectangular boxes full of an indispensable floral hero.

Like children opening long-awaited-for presents, we feel a genuine sense of anticipation and awe as we lift the cardboard lid to one of these boxes. Similar to a box of toy soldiers from another era, we are met with rows of individual stems: fresh green, chunky, and topped with full-to-bursting buds of giant flowers resting on pillows of foam. And we rejoice! Our beloved amaryllis has returned!

Without a shadow of doubt, the amaryllis is up there as one of the top two “Florist’s Life-Saving Winter Flowers” (and yes, that is a Thing). We looked at its partner, the cymbidium, in an earlier post, but for this piece, my aim is to create within you the same sense of wonder, respect and admiration that we feel towards the amaryllis. I shudder to think where we would be at winter time without these beautiful, powerful blooms.

Funny How Flowers Do That

To create something spectacular, you need the best, most versatile materials you can find and the amaryllis come up trumps here, giving us the option to use their amazing height and presence to create real impact. We have positioned them in giant fan-shaped vases for high-end hotel lobbies and bound together in ‘wands’ to look like a giant lollipop, which is perfect for corporate reception areas.

Their magnificently bold open blooms look fabulous used completely on their own or when placed alongside other winter and spring flowers set into all manner of simple or striking vases and vessels.

amaryllisinfo.eu

With colours ranging from the purest of whites to the most shocking of candy pinks, with oranges, peaches, reds and almost-blacks, in between, the amaryllis ticks all the boxes.

Marrewijk Amaryllis

As with the cymbidium, in our view, the best amaryllis are cultivated over the water in Holland. Our Dutch friends, Lisa and Arno van Marrewijk have run a family business growing amaryllis since 1994. Despite being growers of the most beautiful varieties of amaryllis, they like to keep the company small so Arno can remain in his beloved greenhouses and not be confined to the office. Lisa also works with amaryllisinfo.eu to promote amaryllis growers in the Netherlands. Together with their three daughters they maintain an inspiring Instagram account: @marrewijk_amaryllis
I asked them a few questions:

Why do we think of amaryllis as a winter flower?

Years ago, most amaryllis were produced in November and December because the flowers were only used at Christmas time.

An amaryllis bulb will stay in our glasshouses for the whole year and, a bit like tulips in the garden, bulbs will only flower when they have been kept for two months at a temperature below 15 degrees. One bulb can grow two or three stems within a year, so we have 6 sections in the greenhouse, each with a different cooling temperature. This enables us to produce amaryllis from September until March.

Just how popular are amaryllis in Holland?

They are popular, but there are still people who don’t know what an amaryllis is! I tell them about the bulb with big flowers at Christmas time in their grandmother’s house. But I really think that their unique selling point is that when you buy them they are completely in bud, and then they change every day and almost quite magically, become vibrant and beautiful.

Perhaps the boldest of all the amaryllis is the red variety but the wealth of colour variation for this flower is truly spectacular. Lisa van Marrewijk loves all varieties of amaryllis, but whenever a new variety is produced it goes to the top of ratings.

In my house I always cut the stems short and arrange them with some foliage from the garden, but in churches and hotels they should be tall to create impact! Amaryllis will open sooner in a warm environment and so to keep them lasting longer, place them in fresh, clean water. Every time you change the water, re -cut the stems.

At Hybrid, it has to be said that the amaryllis can inspire some quite eccentric behaviour in our florists, who may otherwise, on the whole, be quite normal (although who wants to be normal!). Our Creative Director, Alan, adores the satisfying echoey-crunchy sound made when an amaryllis’s hollow stem is cut. I find that painstakingly picking each individual fresh anther from the opening flower bud is just too irresistible (I like to get them just before their pollen turns yellow and dusty!).

However, the effect the flower has on us at Hybrid is nothing in comparison to the Greek myth which tells the story of the amaryllis’s creation! Our resident Greek florist, the gorgeous Sofia, loves to tell the tale of how the amaryllis came to be:

In Greece, the amaryllis symbolizes pride, determination and glamorous beauty.

The story goes that a beautiful maiden, Amaryllis, fell in love with a shepherd called Alteo. Alteo was as beautiful as Apollo, and mighty as Hercules and he had a passion for flowers. He insisted he would only fall in love with a girl who could bring to him a new type of a flower, one that he had never set his eyes on before. Amaryllis was determined to bag Alteo for herself (and wouldn’t you be with those attributes?) and so she turned to the great Oracle of Delphi for advice.

The Oracle told Amaryllis that in order to win Alteo‘s heart, she must wear a white dress and sacrifice her own blood for him. Amaryllis stood in front of Alteo’s house for thirty nights piercing her own heart with a golden arrow (they did things differently in those days – no I guess we’d just right-swipe?). The drops from Amaryllis’s heart fell into the soil and on the thirtieth day, a crimson flower grew where the blood had fallen. In return for this horrific, and no doubt painful, sacrifice, Alteo fell in love with Amaryllis. And maybe they all lived happily ever after!

At Hybrid, we want you too to rejoice in the beauty of the amaryllis and appreciate all the possibilities it has to offer. You won’t need to sacrifice your blood either, amaryllis bulbs can be bought from most reputable florists and garden centres now.

Hybrid Top Tip

As corporate and event florists, often, we want amaryllis to open up as quickly as possible. Key to achieving this is room temperature and we abide by a tip from one of our, now retired, flower market trader friends, who started his career in the original Covent Garden flower market as a barrow boy back in the seventies:

  1. Turn the flower upside down and cut the end of the stems
  2. Fill the hollow stems with warm water
  3. Seal the stem with cotton wool
  4. Quickly turn the flower back upright and place in more warm water
  5. Leave to open in a warm room

Trust us: it works!

With thanks to our friends, the wonderful Marrewijk Amaryllis, amaryllisinfo.eu and Funny How Flowers Do That.

The two flowers that make a florist’s life worth living over the winter months: Part One

A while back, as a welcome break from short, dark, drizzly autumn days the team at Hybrid were given a special treat in the form of an evening at the stunning Royal Observatory Greenwich, where we were lucky enough to be taking part in a venue showcase. We were greeted with the perfect autumnal evening and a magical, starry atmosphere in a truly amazing setting.

It was one of those happy, sociable nights that just fly by and we were so delighted simply to be there, amongst such inspiring people and industry experts (although I suspect the canapes, which tasted sublime, and free-flowing drinks from Party Ingredients contributed!). We found ourselves immersed in conversation with other guests, discussing the merits of London over New York, the trials and tribulations of event photography and loft living in Wapping.  However, the one discussion that really got me thinking was about, wait for it…. flowers!  Specifically:

Which flowers capture the very essence of winter?

We all know that, nowadays, you can get your hands on practically any form of fresh produce, regardless of season. That makes our lives as florists easier and gives us far more creative choice with design. There are nearly as many different varieties of rose available in January as there are in June and you can easily buy dianthus or hydrangeas in your local co-op in March! Nevertheless, I felt the need to dig deeper. Maybe it’s the purist in me. That or the maniacal new-age hipster in search of the perfect sour dough starter. For me, the quandary I wanted to solve was:

Which flowers would completely mess with a florist’s life if they weren’t readily available during winter?

After much thought and more than a little pestering of our Contract and Event Designers from me, the Hybrid consensus of opinion was thus:

There are only two truly magical, wintry varieties that qualify: the cymbidium orchid and the amaryllis.

In this blog I’ll be looking at the cymbidium, a wonderful, fascinating and infinitely adaptable orchid that we never tire of due to its amazing versatility and variety. Hybrid have the privilege of working with some amazing cymbidium suppliers in Holland and their knowledge of this plant is second to none.

Sandra, husband Leo and team have been growing cymbidiums for eighteen years.  They produce some of the highest quality orchids under the brand of Cy More Flavour. Their obsession with the variety knows no bounds.

The longer you work with them the more you love them. When you look at any variety closely you’ll find out that every one of them have beautiful details.

The cymbidium plant originates from Asia and each variety flowers once per year, but we wanted to know why they are a winter flower:

Originally, it is thought of as an autumn/winter product because that’s the time that most of the varieties bloom from origin. It depends on the genes of the variety to which month that is, but a variety that blooms in November from origin is not suitable to bloom in April or May.

The sheer variety of cymbidium is vast, each with unique patterning and colour tones. The name Cy More Flavour reflects the idea: ‘See More Colour’. The food mentioned in the flower’s name represents its colour, with coconut for white, cherry for red and caramel for the brown and oranges.

Andrea Dutton

All these colours give us the most amazing palettes to work with. At Christmas time the green and red tones are very popular, and in autumn the copper and brown colored varieties perfectly represent the season.  And for a winter wedding white is wonderful.

It can be used in so many different styles, in classic arrangements as well as contemporary and every style in between.

Hybrid have used these magnificent flowers in all manner of ways, for example:

  • Showcasing their tall towering stems in event pedestal designs
  • Creating wide fanned shaped designs for tall table centres in hotel ballrooms
  • Submerging the whole stems in clear cylinder vases for weekly corporate reception designs
  • Arranging individual stems into clusters of modern vases to fill luxury, contemporary spaces
  • Hanging them upside down from ceilings and arches at parties and weddings
  • Using the individual heads in vials of water amongst bouquets

The possibilities really are endless!

Growing a Cymbidium is not mean feat and creating such a beautiful plant can’t be rushed, in all, it takes seven to eight years from the moment of cross pollination to harvest! First, the grower selects two features of individual plants that they would like to incorporate in a new one. Pollen is transferred and it takes around 9 months for germination. 400 ‘cotyledon’ can be created from one seed but, incredibly, after three years, only 3 or 4 plants will make it through Cy More’s selection criteria. It then takes another three years before the flowers first bloom. And to think that we get impatient having to wait for them just over the summer months!

Cy More Flavour

I asked Cy More which variety was their favourite, Sandra told me:

The variety “Madelon” is a beautiful deep red and named after our daughter. I think George Harrison “Flying High”, a gorgeous red variety with nicely shaped flowers, could be the new classic.

I asked Sandra which florists, in her opinion, did the flowers the most justice:

There are so many florists from all over the world who create wonderful arrangements with cymbidium. The Norwegian master-florist, and former world champion, Stein Are Hansen, is a real cymbidium lover who designs wonderful arrangements. Mark Pampling, an Australian based floral designer, often works with cymbidium in a very fresh and contemporary style.

Cy More’s recommendations:

  • The orchid is the symbol of pure friendship so they make perfect gifts.
  • Never throw away the lower heads of orchids on a stem, use them in a tiny vase in fresh tepid water.
  • Look after cymbidium by cutting 1 cm off the end of the stem and repeat this every five days.
  • Never use cut flower food and do not put the cymbidium stem into direct sunlight.
  • Avoid touching the stigma as this will accidentally distribute the pollen and the lip from the cymbidium flower will turn red earlier.

Andrea Dutton

All images, unless otherwise stated, are generously supplied by Orchids-Info 

The Pearl and Pear interview

Every time we are given a brief to design the flowers for an event the geeky part in us will start to rub their hands together.  At Hybrid, all of us love a bit of research and preparation. Whether it be looking into the style and personality of the client, a company’s brand values, the history of a venue or a unique events theme. But when we were asked by the inspirational, creative events experts, Pearl and Pear for an interview and we realised that we had to talk about OURSELVES and our OWN WORK we thought, in true control-freak fashion:

hmm… how can we prepare for THIS? There’s got to be something we can research?

Slowly we realised that there wasn’t much preparation we could do for this particular project and that we were just going to have to wing it.  ‘Go with the flow’ as they say. But first, in a last ditch effort to feel just a little bit efficient, we decided to look up the word ‘work’.

Work: an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result.

Okay… we do quite a lot of this thing they call ‘work’. We can easily talk about that.  In fact we have spent the last fourteen years researching for this very conversation.

And so we did the interview. It was great fun and we heartily recommend winging it…. well sometimes!…

You both started this successful floristry company together – what made you take the first leap?

Each other! Alan and I were both very young, we didn’t have any responsibilities and few expenditures.  Living in London in the late nineties and early noughties, our priorities were being happy and doing things our way. We weren’t afraid of living on next to nothing. And carrying flowers on the tube!

At the beginning we found ourselves working for three separate florists completely by coincidence.  It wasn’t long before we became great friends. We have exactly the same sense of humour. But we are also very different. I (Caroline) am the quiet one who looks out for opportunities whilst Alan is the fearless one who will say- “Why not? Let’s do it!” Our blend of caution, courage and of course creativity ended up being a great combination. We worked harder than either of us ever thought possible and the company grew along with us.

Are you both really as flower obsessed as we think you are?

We have probably thought about flowers every single day for the past twenty years! We are so brainwashed by flowers! As a result we can spot them a mile off. Before our brains even have a chance to register anything else. Just when we think we may be getting slightly complacent, the seasons will change. Always bringing us something new and exciting.HybridPearlandPearAlan

Does Hybrid have any favourite event themes?

Summer with a twist is always fun. It gives us a chance to design all manner of beautiful florals. Using lovely bold shapes and colours. As well as some striking one-off focal pieces. Summer events offer us a golden opportunity to create some gorgeous high impact installations on themes such as Summer Festival Season, English Countryside and Midsummer Night’s Dream. The possibilities are endless!

We understand that as flowers are living and breathing tools to work with therefore they must have their complications – what has been your most challenging event?

Any event on a hot weather day!

Before we moved to our lovely cool and spacious work studio, storing delicate flowers in the summer heat was a nightmare. With many flowers to organise, especially delicate peonies, planning was essential. Most of our peonies are sourced from Holland so we had to work out exactly when to place our order so that our peonies would work their magic and open just in time for each event.

However, when there is a heat wave all that planning can go out the window as peonies can simply burst open and drop their petals as soon as you look at them. Back in the day, we were so lucky that our suppliers allowed us to store our flowers in the market so that they could slowly open. Unfortunately, even with this lifeline, exposure to sudden heat just travelling from A to B can cause peonies to explode in a puff of petals and there is no putting them back together.

Alan still laughs to this day at the memory of me driving back and forth from the flower market with buckets full of hundreds of peonies not sure whether to leave them in the market, take them to our workshop or just get them to the hotel early! In fact, one of our wonderful suppliers gave me buckets of peonies just to calm me down!

What would be your top tip(s) to create maximum impact when using floristry at an event?

Think of just three simple key words to give to your florist which will describe the feel of the floral arrangements that you want for your event.  If you endeavour not to deviate from these key words then you can remain focused on creating the right atmosphere and also give your florist space and inspiration to offer your some amazing unique designs. For example:

  • Pink, Mediterranean, sunshine
  • Sparkle, delicate, soiree
  • Rambling, woodland, ambers

At Hybrid, we always recommend pooling your budget so that you can create a few key pieces for an event. Otherwise, you run the risk of spreading your budget too thinly across a large number of items that won’t have the same dramatic impact on the day of your event.

Last but by no means least, always have a ‘star flower’ at the core of your designs. By doing so, your guests will marvel, comment on and admire this ‘star flower’ and they will forever associate it with you and your event.

Flower arranging is no way as easy as it looks, do you have any insider knowledge or trade secrets to reveal to create the perfect display at home?

Container, container, container!

If you have a choice always buy vases with a narrow neck.  Even if you only have a few stems of flowers or branches of gorgeous foliage, a vase with a narrow neck will ensure they always stay in place.

As a rule it is easier to work with smaller vases. Look for matching sets of little vases and use a few flower heads to create an eye-catching display.

For larger striking designs, it is often better to buy multiples of one particular flower rather than trying to experiment with a whole host of different varieties.  Bundles of daffodils or a mass of dahlia will look amazing on their own or softened with some lovely foliage.

Finally, as florists, working with gorgeous flowers everyday – are you as obsessed at home?

We do have our favourite flowers at home, ones which we know will best complement our own personal styles. However, on the rare occasions we are given flowers, or when we take random left overs home, we do get rather excited and think “Wow, this time I am the client, how do I want to arrange them?”.

All photography by the super talented Holly Clark

With thanks to the amazing Pearl and Pear 

3 health issues florists suffer for the sake of bringing beauty to the world

If you ever find yourself wandering down Fulham Road you may hear tales of a man that some call ‘Jesus’. This modern day miracle worker is one of the best cranial osteopaths the world has ever seen and he regularly ‘fixes’ the team at Hybrid.

Every June there is a special box of over the counter tablets that we florists rely upon in order to bring beauty to the world. The non-drowsy version, we have discovered, is the most conducive to our heavily pollinated profession.

Over the years, each of us have found a special place we go to in order to stop, reflect, gain perspective, seek inspiration and guidance. A place that makes us feel grateful for what we have. After all, beautifying businesses, hotels, venues and special events can take its toll and the 3 health issues that we florists commonly suffer from are back pain, allergies and stress.

A Florist’s Fitness Plan

Despite appearances, we florists are a tough bunch. A unique combination of pretty flower lover, creative trendy design type and weight lifter. Yes, although most flowers are light as a feather, bundle a few hundred stems together into massive buckets and you have a completely different story!

From carrying crates of flowers up five flights of stairs when the lifts are broken, to expertly packing vans to within an inch of their lives with heavy trees and stone planters as well as setting out giant table centrepieces in record speed, these demanding daily tasks can take their toll on the body.

Beginners luck

The early years of a florist’s career are a breath of fresh air when you are young, invigorated and invincible to the powers of pollen. However, it’s a cruel world when you devote 20 years of your life to your craft and then your immune system decides, “you know what? I reckon that innocent looking flower lying in the back of the van is a threat to me, so I am going to react with to it with a vengeance!”.

3 Florist Health Issues Allergy

And it is the unusual types we fear the most – not just the regular lily or daisy family flower. Within less than a few hours of tending to and transporting obscure mystery flowers, our eyes swell up so much that we look like we have just experienced a particularly fraught and emotional punch up.

Only through trial and error, and constant exposure to some of the most random plants or leaves in existence, have we made a list of flowers that each of us old sensitive types should avoid (or rather ask someone else young and enviable to work with) whilst we seek solace, fresh air and miracles of the non-drowsy variety.

How To Annoy A Florist In 10 Words Or Less

Simply say “it must be so relaxing working with flowers every day!”. You may receive a slight grimace and a twitch in the eye as your only response.

Although it may seem on the surface to be a calming profession, for floristry to truly be relaxing and stress free the flower fairies would need to bestow us with magic wands alongside our first ever pair of scissors that would grant us the power to stop time, control the weather and part traffic at a moment’s notice.

3 Florist Health Issues Traffic

Our magical powers would also need to extend to conjuring up perfectly coloured, scented and open (not too little, not too much) flowers from all four corners of the globe at just the right moment!

3 Florist Health Issues Magic Wand

Oh and a bottomless pot of gold.

So, suggest that it must be so exciting, interesting or even challenging to be a florist and you will be sure to receive a much more open and enthusiastic response alongside many, many mind boggling stories!

Three Fast-Acting Remedies For Florists

At the end of the day, we florists love bringing beauty to the world so we are willing to endure whatever allergies, back pain and stress that nature, the elements and the local traffic report choose to throw at us. To help you pursue your own horticultural interests, here are the Hybrid prescribed treatments for said ailments as follows:

  1. The cranial osteopath: Philip Waldman at Chelsea Natural Health (tell him we sent you)
  2. The over the counter tablets: Claratin Non Drowsy (why do they make a drowsy version anyway?)
  3. The destination: A holiday, anywhere at all (where else!?)

3 Florist Health Issues Holiday